Over the years the series has certainly changed, going from survival to almost full-blown action, and with RE7 I felt like it was once again taking a turn.
With the popularization of first-person horror games such as Outlast and Soma, the latest from Capcom felt like it was taking a cue from these new takes on the genre. What about my item combination and weird keys and puzzles? Is this the next chapter in the franchise? Needless to say my skepticism was silenced quickly upon digging into RE7. This game is a Resident Evil entry if there ever was one, and for the first time since 1996, it felt like that magic that caused me to love the series had been recaptured.
The latest entry in the series features a new protagonist named Ethan. The story revolves around his wife, who goes missing for three years before mysteriously sending a message that leads him on a journey to discover exactly what happened. Whether or not the events play out as expected, or even tie into previous games is worth experiencing firsthand, no spoilers here, but rest assured that this is a Resident Evil game, which means plenty of twisted events lie ahead.
The biggest change is obviously the perspective of the game. No static cameras, or third-person combat. The game takes place entirely from a first-person view, and it certainly adds to the creep factor. The PS4 version even comes with VR support, which I hear is intense. Sadly I was not able to preview this mode for this review.
While the perspective has changed, everything else feels like classic Resident Evil. Herbs can be combined with chemicals to make more potent healing items. Ammo is scarce, and there are weird items and keys to be found. Puzzles are present, but none of them ever pose much of a challenge, they are more designed with exploration in mind. Searching every nook and cranny of the house feels good, and every room I encountered felt like a new sandbox for me to uncover. It is incredibly well done, and the storytelling by the world is outstanding.
Flashbacks are handled with video tapes, where players actually play out the events. What I found really cool was that things I did in these tapes could affect the present, so moving an item or opening a door could change how I progressed in the game. It is small touches, but ones that lead to unique experiences for different players. It is also worth noting that events throughout the game are not scripted, which means some players may encounter entirely different enemy patterns and such, plus once the game has been completed once, it unlocks a whole new difficulty, which is not only more difficult, but also changes the locations of all the items. Classic Resident Evil design.
The core game took me around nine hours to complete, but there was so much that I missed and wanted to revisit to explore. One thing that really stood out to me was that the design and pacing were incredible. Everything felt like it belonged, and the game did an amazing job of leading me to each new objective. There was only one part that felt like it was confusing, but the game managed to steer me in the right direction. The design also makes exploration enjoyable. I wanted to search every nook and cranny, even if the end result was just a couple shotgun shells, and the map was clean and easy to navigate.
Visually the game looks great. I played on Xbox One and PC, and while the PC version certainly delivers cleaner textures and a smoother frame rate, the Xbox One version holds up just fine. This is a pretty game, and the design is stellar. The depth of field effect was used in all the right places, and outside of some lame enemy designs, everything else looked great. Lip synching on the characters was a little off, but I can live with it.
The audio design though is second-to-none. The subtle ambience of the house settling, to the sounds of characters skulking around the house are genuinely creepy. Playing with headphones is almost a necessity here to really appreciate how great the audio actually is.